Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Up and At 'Em

Lately, the sky has been less than cheerful, cast over rather with a gray haze that, if we're lucky, builds into an ominous blue in the afternoon. I like the storms, the thickness of the clouds, the sound of rain to rooftop.

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It slows our pace and keeps us indoors except for the occasional brave outing we make, equipped with umbrellas and wellies, to the bookstore.

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My girls love the bookstore. We hide between aisles of Dr. Seuss and Amelia Bedelia and chase Nella as she weasels between shelves, giggling and looking back to see if we're after her.

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This shot was kind of accidental. I crouched down to get a shot of her shimmying away from me and happened to notice the book to my right. Ha.

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We found our respective characters in a stack of Mr. and Mrs. books.

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...and we finished our afternoon shopping for presents for Brett's birthday, an annual tradition. The rules are simple: We walk in Dollar Tree, I hand a basket to Lainey, and I butt out. No suggestions, no interventions, not even when it's a completely inappropriate gift.

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Like Lucky Charms strategically shelved at a toddler's eye level, this collection of porcelain shitzus screamed "Buy me."

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She dropped two into her basket along with a silver glitter cell phone case, a light saber, a hummingbird feeder, a package of "I heart USA" yo-yos, some kitchen spatulas and my personal favorite, four sheets of Alleluia stickers.

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'cuz Lord knows he's been wanting those anyway.

The card is the best. She chooses Brett's card for its pictures--dogs with wayward tongues or googly-eyed cats--definitely not for its appropriate wording.

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My girl loves a birthday. Candles and songs and presents, she knows how to make them feel special. I know he felt special.

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*****

Yesterday was a long day.
I was't going to write about it because I'm already over it, and looking back it seems a bit silly now. But it's important to me to be especially honest about Down syndrome on this blog. It greatly pales in comparison to the myriad of rich events and moments in our home and therefore, it fades to the background of our life, evident in my writing as well. But there are times where I remember, if but for a moment, the inconveniences and extra worries an extra chromosome brings. Yesterday was one of them. We started with a quick dentist appointment to check out some concerns in her mouth which led to a doctor appointment and, by late afternoon, I was vulnerable and anxious, reminded of all the increased likelihoods that come with Down syndrome. I sat in my car holding a script for a blood test, Nella asleep in the back seat, and I cried for the first time in a long time. It's not really about Down syndrome either. It's far more related to the searing vulnerabilty loving a child brings. Maybe we feel it a bit more when we have a child with special needs, but everyone feels it at different places along the journey. I love them so deeply, so fiercely, so wholly that the thought of them not being okay is more painful than that of my own well-being. There is fear in parenthood, and maybe more with special needs parenting. That fear never really disappears, and I'm well aware it exists. My job is to find an appropriate place for it, not to bury it completely but to manage it, to never let it outshine our zest for life and adventure. Sometimes, it's good to go there. To think about the what-ifs and sympathize with the families that do experience this reality. And it's uncomfortable. But I am becoming familiar with the beautiful process of ups and downs, ebb and flow, victory and defeat. They depend upon each other. We wouldn't know defeat if we didn't have victory to measure it against, and we wouldn't understand that breath-taking happiness is so wonderful if we couldn't compare it with lesser days of disappointment.



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From the parking lot of the doctor's office, I drove straight to the grocery store with one goal in mind: I wanted sunflowers. So, while my girl slept in the back of the cart, I loaded up the front with a vibrant bouquet of happiness.

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This morning, things are better. Nella's spark has returned, and we're pretty sure she has a little virus in her mouth, nothing to do with Down syndrome which is generally the case. No biggie.

****

June concludes today and consequently, my June challenge. I learned that getting something done is far more achievable and enjoyable if the goal is shared. If you make it fun. If you give yourself a break once in a while.

I missed some days of running. There were a few days when I had great intentions, lacing up my running shoes, planning my course, pumping up my enthusiasm. But it didn't always work out. Nella needed me, Brett was out the door, Lainey requested a partner for sidewalk chalk art. I may not have made it past the driveway these days, but looking down at my tennis shoes while I chalked out an ocean scene or pushed a wagon, I smiled knowing just because I wasn't out of breath or timing my feet to hit the sidewalk cracks on the downbeat of Billy Jean, it didn't mean I didn't accomplish my June goal.

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I pushed myself. I learned something. I instilled a new passion to continually raise the bar and to accept that falling back is part of the game. It's how you pick yourself back up that really matters.

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I am up and running today. Tomorrow is a new month, and I will face it ready to run.

*****

July will be delivering several sponsors I'm really excited about. Stuff I love and want to share. One of my favorite jewelry stores, The Meg Shop, is back today. Remember my favorite earrings? Her store is stocked with many more like it as well as unique handmade necklaces and bracelets, all generously priced. Use code "Enjoy10" for 10% off your order. And one comment will be randomly selected from this post to win these earrings from The Meg Shop:

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We'll be back tomorrow for another post.

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Happy Day.

If you get BYU T.V. (we do), you can watch Nella's story along with two other beautifully inspiring stories on Fresh Take T.V. tonight at 7:30 p.m. (check your listings, this might be different for time zones).

Here's a sneak peek from the Fresh Take blog or check out yesterday's preview post.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stream of Consciousness

I am deeply moved by music. In fact, it is not unusual during a gathering of friends for me to hear the distant tunes of some inspiring anthem in the background and then hush everyone for a moment of meditation.

Shhhh. Listen. Hear that?

I close my eyes, hypnotically smile, sway my body and wait for others to feel it too. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they laugh because my moment is weird and funny and untimely.

I get the whole lighter-in-the-air at a concert thing though. And I did the hands-toward-the-heavens thing in worship services when I was a teenager, even though it felt awkward. I have a hard enough time figuring out what to do with my hands when I'm talking to someone without a drink to hold (on your hips, folded behind you, criss-crossed in front? Seriously, where do they go?), stretching them in the air and holding them in the middle of a sanctuary of people just never felt comfortable to me.

Music is a key. There are gripping songs that speak to me, lyrics that unleash my voice, and harmonies and rhythms that mysteriously unlock something within me and awaken my senses, heal my insecurities, and motivate me from hesitation.

I've been listening to this song lately, dancing to it in the kitchen, turning up the speakers in my car until its beat reverberates from my seat and soul alike. And while there are many songs in my mental repertoire that remind me of the autumn we met, the year she was born, that one summer, that restful vacation, that fabulous time, that tearful moment, that really great night on the dance floor...this one is just mine. It all just sort of comes together when I listen to it. A hundred times.

Thank you, Jen, for the song.

*****

It was a weekend of many creatures.

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I highly recommend this butterfly kit, a gift a friend gave Lainey for her birthday.

We watched first the slow movements of our caterpillars that creeped within the small space of their cup. Lainey hesitantly observed them, that half-inch of plastic barrier drawing her a little closer than she would otherwise attempt. A few days later, they zipped up muddy sheaths around them, magically velcroed to the thin paper and hanging from it like stalactites. Lainey says "chriff-o-liff."

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Finally, this weekend, they emerged, more beautiful and colorful and far more appealing to Lainey than their wormlike state.

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And our 'wow' shot. Wait for it....


....


....

Bam.

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We're in the process of naming them, our five painted ladies that will soon be set free to explore the woods before their short life cycle is over.

*****

We attended to the weekend properly--sleeping in (yeah right), showering late, slipping back into sweats and stretchy t-shirts for the remainder of the day.

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Morning after unwinding two tightly secured buns.

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Lainey gets her hair washed in the kitchen sink.

Something's up with this one.

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Her schedule's off, and she yearns to be secured to my hip and in sight of me at all times which makes for more trying days...and nights.

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In a moment of sheer brilliance this weekend, I decided a bike ride--just me and the girls--would be the perfect distraction. Nevermind the fact it was ninety some degrees, Nella hates her bike helmet, my front tire is askew and our Craigslist kiddie cart is on its last leg. No, I was determined because "it'll be fun" rolls off my tongue instinctively and somehow, I believe it every time. How about it'll be fun-ny?

I strapped them both up, simultaneously calming Nella's crying and admonishing Lainey with a "Get your elbow out of your sister's face. I'm serious." I was convinced once we were rolling, once the stagnant torridity of a late dog day in June was relieved with the slight breeze my rapid pedaling would produce, they'd be fine. They'd be happy. They'd be smiling with an obvious "thanks Mom, you're the best."

So I pedaled. Hard and fast. Until I heard a clunk and a scream and realized, I was pedaling alone and the crappy kiddie bike cart with two hot, screaming kids was rolling solo and soon lying cock-eyed in the middle of the sidewalk while the distance between us grew. I stopped my bike, threw the kickstand out and ran to the girls, thankfully finding them unscathed, just pissed off. And, I'm sorry, but the sound of them screaming and the sight of that slanted cart, their bulky helmets, me running to help them, my own bike abandoned...well, it was funny and I was laughing so hard, I was of no help to the girls. The weight of my bike overpowered the kickstand within seconds, and it too fell with a metal-scraping crash. I scooped up Nella, calmed Lainey and literally sat on the cement because I was afraid I'd wet my pants if I didn't. Brandyn ran to help and managed to snap this picture of our shameful walk home. Oh yeah, there was a dog in the cart too.

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My bike and I are currently not speaking to each other.

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*****

Despite that comedic little bump this weekend, we enjoyed ourselves.

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Dot came over, and Lainey asked her to sit still with her mouth open and this hat on her head so she could sketch her.

Dot made Lainey a new pillowcase dress in about 45 minutes. Lainey loves it and chose to accessorize its debut on a trip to Target with a pair of mismatched shoes. On our way out the door from Target, I looked down to see one shoe bit the dust somewhere along the way and apparently, she was cool with it because she never mentioned it. Thankfully, it was a cheap Dora flip-flop I was praying would get lost to begin with.

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*****

In August, I will celebrate my eighth year in Florida. It took five years to beat the homesickness, two more to not cry over the absence of a cold, snowy Christmas and finally, this year, I'm comfortable with the heat. I forget to complain about it, instead remembering to wear ponytail holders as bracelets, keep bathing suits in the car and stock my purse with blotting papers.

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The soundtrack of summer definitely includes the rattling chime of spoke beads.

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June challenge is almost over, and I'll dish later on how I failed a few times, picked it up a notch, but in the end succeeded.

Tune in this Thursday evening (June 30) at 7:30 p.m. to BYU's Fresh Take TV (checked our TV Guide, and we get the BYU channel.) Our Inspiring Story episode from this trip will be airing.

And that, my friends, is the end of a willy-nilly stream of consciousness post. When sleep schedules are amended, order will resume. Until then, have a happy week.

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